Nihiloceros- Dark Ice Balloons

by | May 1, 2024 | Reviews

Nihiloceros Dark Ice Balloons


On their newest LP Dark Ice Balloons, New York scene stalwarts Nihiloceros bring us both the vibrant rock music we know and love and a new direction. The band (on this album featuring Mike Borchardt on guitar and vocals, Alex Hoffman on bass and vocals, and German Sent on drums) acknowledges that Dark Ice Balloons is a bleaker record, with musings on life and death and the liminal spaces in between, but the music raises everything up so as to not be a depressing affair.


Nihiloceros bill themselves as “trash pop,” and are certainly on the punk side of pop, but not the pop side of punk, if you know what I mean. Dark Ice Balloons punches right in with “Penguin Wings,” showing how the band stands above the punk pack with interesting chord choices and progressions, and sharp harmonies on the choruses to add dynamic range. 


The single “Skipper” is another great example of dynamic choices, with bopping verses and a changeup of vocals and timing of the beat on the chorus, like crashing waves moving into a rolling sea. According to the group, “the first single off our forthcoming EP questions, “if our soul screams out alone at sea, will it make a sound that anyone will hear?…We are destined to die, but does the soul live on?”



Nowhere on the eight songs of the LP does the band get lazy. Borchardt’s guitar work is cutting, Hoffman is a creative bass player, and Sent propels everything into the stratosphere, while the contrast between Borchardt and Hoffman’s vocals—used to especially great effect on “Skipper” and “Purgatory (Summer Swim)”—adds another layer. Musically, the album moves from unrelenting (“Halo”), poppier (“Krong”), and intense (“Purgatory (Summer Swim)”) while touching on the band’s ideas of the afterlife (and also a space explorer in the Midwest, on the single “Martian Wisconsin”).


“Counting Sheep” was a favorite of mine, a chameleon of a track that constantly changed direction, as was the soaring “Halo.” The stellar ending track “Purgatory (Summer Swim)” is the best song on the record, with intriguing musical flourishes and an earworm of a call and response chorus—seriously, does “I’m gonna kill you when you’re gone” have the right to be so catchy? The album was mixed by Jeff Berner at Studio G in Brooklyn, and he doesn’t overdo the production, keeping everything clean without losing any of the rawness.


Nihiloceros performing

Nihiloceros performing

Nihiloceros performing

Nihiloceros (photos by Kate Hoos)


Nihiloceros are known for their high energy shows, constant pounding of the New York pavement and care for the scene at large, always shouting out support for other bands along the way. You can catch them for their album release show at Purgatory on May 4th along with Spite FuXXX,Two-Man Giant Squid, and Brook Pridemore. Dark Ice Balloons is out May 3rd on Totally Real Records, and can be found on Bandcamp, Spotify, and Instagram.




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